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Moray revisited: High-priority affective stimuli and visual search

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Previous research offers conflicting suggestions about whether "high-priority" verbal stimuli such as an individual's own name or emotionally charged words automatically grab attention and/or can be detected without the usual capacity limitations. Nine experiments investigated this issue, using visual search through displays of words. In speeded search tasks, the subject's own name was detected more quickly than other targets, but in no case were search slopes flat enough to suggest parallel search or "pop-out". Further, names were not found to be unusually potent distractors. Emotionally charged words were neither more readily detected as targets nor more potent as distractors than neutral words. Acomparison of observers' accuracy in searching briefly exposed simultaneous vs. successive displays provided further evidence that search for "high-priority" word targets is subject to the same severe capacity limitations as those that are found with search for neutral words.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02724980343000107

Affiliations: University of California San Diego USA

Publication date: January 1, 2004

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